Here sitting with me this afternoon on the high table are, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN and Past President of the Bar), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN and Past President of the Bar), Mr. J.B. Daudu (SAN and Past President of the Bar), Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN and Past President of the Bar) Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) Dr. Koyinsola Ajayi(SAN), Mr. Kemi Pinhero (SAN), Deacon Dele Adesina (SAN and Past Secretary General of the Bar), Mr. Monday Ubani (2nd Vice President of the Bar) and Executive Director of NBA, Mrs Ifueko Alufohai. Gentlemen of the Press, we woke up this morning to very disturbing news across the country of such an unprecedented event.
We received information and briefing this morning, indicating that in the course of last night and up till this morning, up till this afternoon, operatives of Department of State Security services invaded residences of some Judges across the country, including some Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja and other jurisdictions. These also include Rivers State and Gombe State. Since morning we have been trying to establish this fact. The only fact we established so far is that some gunmen, claiming to be from the DSS have invaded residences of various judges, held them hostages and also manhandled some members of their families.
Particularly, in Rivers state, there were some scuffles involving the state governor. The judges’ residences have been searched. I was informed that some judges of the Supreme Court have been held hostage since yesterday night.
We also received that they have just been moved to the headquarters of the DSS. Obviously the situation still is unfolding. But I have been in touch with the Chief Justice of Nigeria on telephone and some other justices.
The NBA is tapping on the situation and we are in touch of the goings and monitoring the situation as it continues to unfold. We will like to state here that Nigeria is not under military rule and we cannot accept this despotic style of operations aimed, clearly at intimidating the legal profession, the Bar Association and our Judiciary.
The Bar condemns this Gestapo operation in its strongest terms possible and we say that we will not accept this modus operandi adopted by the state against the Judicial officers or against any citizen.
What we have seen so far is that government has openly resulted to illegal and unconstitutional means in undertaking its activities; we consider this to be completely at variance with the requirements of the rule of law and constitution. We see the Executive undermining the independence of Judiciary and undermining the legal profession and institution of democracy.
Having reviewed the circumstances and unfolding events, I want to, on behalf of the NBA make the following very clear and unequivocal demands:
1. We demand immediate and unconditional release of all the justices and judges abducted in the course of last several hours
2. We demand that DSS should limit itself to its constitutional and statutory duty and should not usurp the statutory functions of other agencies of government.
This kind of operation is not acceptable under democracy. Whatever justification, whatever complaints, there are due processes and accepted statutory responsibility, which should be respected. If there are any complaints against any serving justices, there are constitutionally laid down procedures and there are rules that govern this. It should be observed. We expect the government to take legal counsel from appropriate officers of the government, including Attorney General of the Federation who is there to guide them.
The NBA hereby calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call the Security Agencies to order and we will not allow this to continue.We hope the President will not allow the situation to deteriorate further than this.
The Bar Association hereby declares a state of emergency as far as it relates to the legal profession and Judiciary in the country.I hereby constitute a Crisis Management Team comprising all Past Presidents of NBA and past Secretary General.
We will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds in the coming hours of the days. We will be issuing appropriate statements and directives as may be necessary. We hope that the President and its government will not allow this situation to deteriorate further, I repeat. Obviously the Bar Association will go to any extent within the limit of the law to ensure that independence of legal profession, independence of the Bar and independence of the Judiciary are respected by the government and all agencies of government.
We warn clearly that there would be great consequences if these demands are not met immediately.
Dated 8th Day of October, 2016
Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, SAN, OON
President, , Nigerian Bar Association.